Outcomes of my Dad's recent Funeral in London
By elsie katz
I am so glad that I live In Devon.
Every other member of my family and pretty much everyone who is close to them lives in London. Mainly North London. No offence haha to Abcbods but writers living South of the Oxford Street Christmas Lights and the annual Lord Mayor's Parade would be viewed by anyone over fifty in my family as Dangerous Foreigners. Whites included. And when I was young a Christian was anyone who wasn't a Jew. Unless, for example, they looked like Hindus or Muslims.
I am white and the first English person in my family. I didn't pass it on to my daughters. Both are Scottish and live in London. My lot, Jews of my generation, saw ourselves as English because we were born here but also referred to non Jews as 'the English'. We learned phrases like 'the English like to drink'. Bad. 'The English don't like to get involved.' Also bad. My Dad was on the bus home from work one day when he saw a bunch of teenage boys in school uniform bullying an old man and chucking his bags of groceries about. He was over fifty and waited to see if anyone else would get involved. They didn't. When the bus stopped he picked up the leader by his armpits and dumped him on the pavement. He then said to the bully's pals. 'And you can f**k off too.' They did.
Most of my friends today are White and Christian and some are completely English including my boyfriend. Exmouth in East Devon where I have lived for a long time is like that. They are an alright lot.
I am not deliberately being racist or sectarian however one outcome of my father's funeral and cremation two weeks ago is that it has made me think about where I am from and how this may have influenced me.
I have no wish to live in London again and anyhow I can't afford it. IMO London is a good place to visit and as a tourist I like its busyness. I can see that it can sometimes be a fun place for young people. I hope they can scrape up a few bob after they have paid the astro rents and go pubbing, eating and partying as well as enjoying the green spaces and walks. London has always been good for parks and cheap quality eateries.
I like the Lord Mayor. Saddiq Khan appears to be a political person who has managed to navigate his way through the squalid mess of current events, keeping his head, his integrity and his awareness that he has been elected to serve Londoners.
But I do not not feel that London delivers on its promises for people who live there a long time. Too much of everything accompanied by the pressure to enjoy and experience the lot. It's physically impossible and it must be hard not to feel spiritually drained.
I was shocked to see two hefty coppers fully armed with rifles in my carriage when I got on the Tube at Euston to visit my Mum in Wembley Park the day before the funeral.I find armed cops more frightening than terrorists because I can see them. What if there had had been a shootout and one of them had got me in the crossfire. Scary.
Two of Mum's good friends from her Book Club gave me a lift to my bus stop after the post-cremation buffet in the hotel in nearby Hendon. The woman said the cops had been on the train because there had been a concert at Wembley Stadium that evening. 'Ed Sheeran' I said.
Overall, inner London seems peaceful to me. Always growing onsite, new shoots and blooms breaking through the cracks and rot of past decay. The victory of Now. Rich and poor living side by side in flats. You can tell the Council Flats by the external wall plaque 'LCC No Ball Games allowed.' White and Black on the buses. Piles of shops and new flats. Food places ranging from the little basement shack beside the Elephant and Castle Station where the woman my age from South America made me some pease balls with a sweet chili dip for a quid and smiled when I told I liked them, I guess it's her national version of chips and ketchup and I didn't need a full meal, to the upmarket-looking Polish restaurant where I might treat a daughter or two on subsquent visits.
Yes, subsquent visits and greater contact with the rest of my family. That is the intermediate outcome of my Dad's funeral. I had a week back in Devon where when I lay in bed to rest my heart would race. I knew this was 'anxiety' pure and simple and deep breathing followed by dropping off to sleep sorted it. Those symptoms have now stopped. Visiting Mum and the rest, including as much of London as I can squish in using my bus pass is the next outcome. Every six weeks or more if needed.
And coming to London to visit Dad. Or at least to spend time by his rose in Golders Green Crematorium.The Spielberg Foundation (!)* phoned my sister and offered a memorial rose. She refused the offer.
I have expressed my views to the family and I am sure we can phone back and say we have changed our mind. Yes we want Dad to have a rose in the crematorium. Well I do.
I want to visit my Dad's rose when I come to London. His mother's name was Rosa.
* When I was 30 or maybe a year or two older, my family and those in the same situation became public property overnight. Before that our family talked about the Holocaust now and again and on hot summer days Dad wore shirtsleeves or a tee-shirt and we could see his concentration camp number on his right forearm. That was it.The public, Jews included, simply got on with our lives after the war. Then there was an explosion of interest which remains today, books, films, memorial days, the Survivor Community Centre in Golders, Green where Dad wrote his memory pieces as part of the writing group, the newer. Holocaust Education Centre in Nottingham which I have yet to visit.TV memorial days, canapes and handshaking for survivors who wanted to take part.Was it Dad who shook hands with the Queen on TV and Mum who got Camilla Parker Bowles.
Overall IMO the good outweighs the less so. However I do wonder about time and 'safe distance'.When are the powers that be 'officially' ready to cope with the past and what happens meanwhile to those who have been through it? There has been war in the Uk since. Do the people in the North of Ireland get help with housing,health, and attempts to build peace. Do their survival tales reach the media?I hope so.
I like Steven Spielberg** and his films. My alltime favourite has got to be Jurassic Park
** Amendment of information. I talked to Mum this morning. She explained that the man who spoke to my sister about the memorial rose used to work for the Holocaust Education Centre in Nottingham. He now works for the Spielberg Foundation in the USA. He became a friend of my parents some years ago and he phoned on behalf of the people in Nottingham.
Plans for the rose planting and the scattering of Dad's ashes are starting to come together. It will probably happen close to Dad's birthday on April 30th. This gives our family a chance to organise and to agree things by consensus as best we can. The time of year will also be good for the little white rose with the natural scent to thrive.
Oct 19. Update. Dad will now have a bright yellow'hypericum' shrub over him- I opted for a location in the crem garden which I like rather than sticking to my rose notions. I was given a choice of location and shrub by the helpful and well-organised lady in the crematorium office. The Horder Garden where Dad will be from early May next year, is in a less 'busy' part of the crematorium garden which suits me best as a future visitor. Three shrubs were on offer, the other two are pinky-purply in colour and Dad and I like bright garden colours, yellows and reds. I am pretty sure Mum still has a hypericum in the little front garden in the house in Wembley Park our family moved to in 1960 shortly after my younger sister was born.Mum is still there and is adjusting well to her loss with help from friends, family and good neighbours.